If you or a loved one has graduated from high school or college within the past four decades, there’s a good chance you own a portrait taken by Bob and Gail Knight’s photography company.
The Tallahassee couple built a business empire, now called Iconic Group, by photographing graduates as they matriculated, capitalizing on their unique ability to process and distribute staggering quantities of photos in a breathtakingly short amount of time.
Bob and Gail Knight will tell their story and sign their new book, “Married To It,” at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 at Holy Comforter Episcopal School.
It wasn’t always a multimillion-dollar venture. Bob started his company on the campus of Florida State University, taking formal photographs for sororities. That’s how he met Gail, who was pursuing her degree in accounting.
“We met because she gave me a bad check,” he laughed.
“I was the treasurer for my sorority,” Gail added.
That twist of fate led to the development of a strong business partnership and a beautiful life together. Bob had the vision for the company from the beginning, and Gail worked out all of the administrative and process issues. And as their business grew, they set some ground rules.
“There was no business talk at home without prior consent,” Bob said. “We didn’t want our business world to take over our home life too. If you’re not careful, you can ruin a personal relationship if all you do is work.”
“The reason we were able to stay married, raise three sons and grow a successful business was that we had different skill sets,” Gail explained. “I didn’t want to get in his chili, and he didn’t want to get in mine.”
That careful prioritization and deliberate management also applied to the people they hired.
“We hired the person, not for the position,” said Bob. “Most of our employees were young people we met at restaurants and bars, and if we felt like their personality was a fit, we reached out.”
“Every now and then we’d meet someone and think, ‘We have to keep him or her,’” said Gail. “And many of them stayed with us.”
Their book, “Married To It,” tells not only their entrepreneurial story, but also their story as a couple who loved and supported each other through successes, failures, ups and downs.
“This isn’t a memoir so much as it is a legacy,” said Bob. “It’s a Tallahassee story and an FSU story; it started here and it’s still here. FSU helped us flourish.”
Bob and Gail hope their story offers a few lessons, both business and personal. And no one could argue they’re not experts.
This article was first published in the Tallahassee Democrat.